By Steve Kelman

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The Lectern: Boomers rule?

I suspect it’s been at least mildly depressing for many baby boomers to experience the apparent generational struggle in the presidential campaign on the Democratic side between the old, establishment boomer generation and the new up-and-coming generation. I suspect few boomers have an easy time seeing themselves as old or establishment.

In England recently, I had a chance to see how the '60s generation still casts a long shadow over the present. I attended a small dance in the college at Oxford where my daughter is doing her junior year abroad. (For longtime government procurement people, this is the daughter whose experiences at Chuck E. Cheese when she was five I used to recount in speeches while administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy.) I realized that if one looked at the clothing, hair styles, and general behavior of the Oxford kids at this dance, it more closely resembled a party in the late '60s than a late '60s party would resemble a party in the late '50s. Forty years later, the '60s still appears as the birth era of today’s culture.

I was also talking with somebody at the party from Liverpool. After informing me that Liverpool’s airport was now named the John Lennon International Airport, he added that the Beatles were considered British national icons, and that most young people his age would be familiar with most of the Beatles’ major songs and many of them could identify the albums on which they first appeared. For how many artists of the '70s, '80s or '90s would this be true?

Speaking of boomers, I was saddened to get the news Wednesday that Tom Davis, Amherst Class of 1971 and thus from the sweet spot of the boomer generation, has announced he plans to retire from Congress. I first got to work with Congressman Davis while OFPP administrator, working with him on an effort to prevent special interest groups from preventing state and local governments from gaining access to the GSA schedules. This was a reinventing government proposal that Davis, a Republican, supported despite the fact that the idea had a Democratic pedigree (among our small band of supporters was Dennis Kucinich!). On that one, we went down to utter defeat, but Davis never gave up, and a decade later, the idea is becoming reality.

Davis’ departure is a source of enormous dismay to the procurement and information technology communities in both the civil service and in industry, of whom he was our most-devoted champion. Who will now stand up against various dysfunctional proposals floating around Washington that would make the procurement system worse?

Davis, if by chance he’s reading this, will appreciate the sixties music stories above. We are now planning this year’s '60s rock trivia contest where the two of us challenge the first-year class at the Kennedy School.

Posted by Steve Kelman on Feb 01, 2008 at 12:09 PM


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